The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Golf-and-biz gala reaches for the future, drives far

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s persistent pitch to improve overseas perception of Bengal could soon get a rev-up from Finnish Formula One great Mika Hakkinen or a leg-up from Danish soccer icons, the brothers Laudrup.

The Consular Corps golf meet in the city, which meant serious business in its third edition this year, with Saturday’s structured conclave hosted by the state, is already planning ahead and planning big. After Kapil Dev and former English skipper Michael Atherton (in town on charity work for children of Future Hope Foundation) brought a touch of leather-and-willow to the Tollygunge Club fairways on the final day, the organisers are buoyant enough to carry the drive a little further.

“Over the past two years, this tournament has grown in numbers and quality. But, we still feel this is just the tip of the iceberg and to accelerate the effort, we need to take it to the next level. This could be having cultural side-shows alongside the event and even flying down larger-than-life mascots from participating countries, like say a soccer star or an opera singer, who can connect with the audience here,” observed Brandon De Souza, tournament director.

The consular diplomats in attendance this pleasant November Sunday, with or without their golfing gear, immediately warmed to the idea. “Why not' The Laudrup brothers (Michael and Brian) are not intensely active in professional football any longer and both visited Vietnam recently as Denmark’s brand ambassadors… We could persuade them to stop by in Calcutta on another tour of Southeast Asia,” said Danish ambassador in India Michael Sternberg, on his third visit to the Tolly show.

Support for the initiative came from Scandinavian neighbours Finland too, with the country’s honorary consul in Calcutta Satish Kapur offering to pitch for Mika Hakkinen as the Finnish beacon at the Consular Corps tourney. Italian consul-general Agostino Pinna, on his part, felt a wine-and-cheese festival or an opera show from his homeland could serve to showcase Italy’s strengths in Bengal better.

Also, to make the business seminar “more meaningful” for overseas corporate captains, the Consular Corps will invite chairmen of all PSUs six months before next year’s meet through the state government. A compilation of all that happened at this year’s event is being stitched together to be circulated to all consulate offices and Indian embassies abroad to “spread the good word” about Calcutta.

Even as the focus is firmly on the future, the organisers, along with co-drivers West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, are counting their blessings from this year’s meet. While a stream of projects is on the conveyor belt, a fleet of business delegations is lined up for touchdown. An Italian leather team in December, a French industry delegation in January, a Danish IT contingent in April, a Finnish IT crew, a Swiss business delegation…

"We are in dialogue with the Bengal government for a number of projects in environment technology, like green fuel and landslide prevention," said Swiss ambassador Walter B. Gyger. He felt that with the three existing growth centres — Maharashtra, Bangalore-Chennai-Hyderabad and Delhi-Gurgaon-Noida — getting “overcrowded”, Calcutta offers a “natural fourth destination”.

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